Since I was called to seek my other Gods, I have spent a lot of time in study lately – well, mostly in search of something to study. The problem with being drawn to a less popular faith is that there seems to be so little information out there about what others have gleaned from the stories and writings that are central to Irish Polytheism and ways their paths have developed. Oh, there’s plenty of talk about the fact that people have developed ritual and a firm set of beliefs…but no one ever seems to want to say exactly what that is. And if you’re looking to join an online community, be prepared for them to belittle you for your lack of understanding the things they know. If they ever tell you about it, it isn’t until they have criticized and torn you down for your lack of knowledge first.
Sound bitter? Sorry, I found people to have that attitude nearly 15 years ago when I was a newly minted Pagan trying to find my way to these beliefs from the maze that is Wicca. And then, earlier this year, I found discussions about “how things used to be” and how much better the communities were. And then, I actually started finding and attempting to participate in discussions, and I had someone speak down to me because THEY were unable to understand the question I was asking – obviously I was the problem. When I realized that my question wasn’t being understood, I attempted to rephrase my question so they could understand what was being asked. And they turned around and began accusing me of being a Wiccan or “soft” polytheist (which, in certain circles, is very much an insult). It’s to the point where – while I am still a member of the community, hoping SOMETHING of worth will come out of it – I no longer participate in conversations. They are so caught up in what they believe the stories say about a deity, they refuse to see them as anything other.
In this case it is Manannan – they all saw Him as a father figure, a caring, almost doting father. Manannan has not been “fatherly” to me from the first moment we interacted. The lessons He has to teach me has nothing to do with being a father figure to me – thankfully, since the Dagda (which, I am playing around with using the more popular “An Dagda”, not sure how I feel about it yet) is very much a father figure to me. Manannan brings to me the lessons of cunning and wit – traits that I mistakenly referred to as “trickster” because of years of talking to a much more broad Pagan community – but also comes to me with such vitality and virility that there is absolutely nothing “fatherly” about Him.
Okay, the rant wasn’t the main purpose of this conversation. My point is that for a while I was stalled, still seeking information, but despairing of actually finding a community of people who will talk to me and give me actual information about how they are applying the knowledge they’ve gathered from the research. I know what the material is that is the basis of the faith. I’ve read most of them many times, but I am wanting discourse about where to go from the research to a practical application in my spiritual life. Why is it so hard to put down in so many words what exactly your path is? I understand the importance of scholarship, of looking beyond the obvious – I’ve found my way here through a decade and a half of Wicca and Eclectic New Age because of scholarship. I just want a frank conversation so that I know if the things that I’ve implemented in my life are the same things others have taken from the stories and traditions – if not, I want to know what’s different and why so that I can make an informed decision. Not someone belittling me telling me I need to do more research. Because as much as I want it my faith to be based on the truth of who my ancestors were and the Gods are, my faith is a LIVING faith and needs to be MORE than just research. I think it’s something lacking in many Recon faiths, they seem so trapped in the past and study that it isn’t a matter of faith but of pure scholarship.
I guess this is really an appeal to anyone who is living ANY recon tradition – offer more than just basic generalities. Don’t just say “we live by a similar code of conduct as our ancestors”, tell us the basic tenants of that code. (please note – I realize that everyone lives by a value system and not everyone can put it into words at the drop of a hat, but if you are claiming it is similar to another person/group’s values, shouldn’t you at least be able to say HOW they are similar?) Is it a society where the strong are venerated, or the meek? Is pride a good thing or a bad thing? This especially goes if you’re a group that claims to help further one another’s knowledge – if you aren’t actually helping further anyone’s knowledge you’re simply patting one another on the back for getting to the same place as you’ve gotten, which usually means you’re all stagnating.
And if you, like I, are willing to admit that there is much you don’t understand, be cautious of the people you encounter along the way. If you are a fellow traveler along this path, consider this – our ancestors were known for being boastful as he with the most to boast about was held in highest esteem. But it was only the foolish who made claims of knowledge or skill they lack, particularly in a society where such boasts were often tested.
I hope you were able to glean something useful from this – it was very cathartic to say it when I lack the energy to point out such a thing directly to a group of people who will simply join ranks against the “ignorant” or “fluffy” intruder rather than hear me out. But may this be a calming way to end this conversation – I’ve discovered the tradition Sinnsreachd and (even better) Sinnsreachd Life blog which are actually about living traditions (no, not claims of family tradition passed down hundreds of years). They make me mildly hopeful. I’ll let you know. ^__^